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Teacher uses Shakespeare to help students with autism

Local actress and teacher Gloria Minnich's new workshop, "Shakespeare's Island," works to improve the emotional capabilities and communication skills of students ages 10-18 with autism spectrum disorder. (Photo courtesy of Melinda Haines)<br />
Local actress and teacher Gloria Minnich's new workshop, "Shakespeare's Island," works to improve the emotional capabilities and communication skills of students ages 10-18 with autism spectrum disorder. (Photo courtesy of Melinda Haines)

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Shakespeare at IPFW

WHAT: “Shakespeare’s Island,” a workshop for students ages 10-18 with autism spectrum disorder that is taught by Gloria Minnich and hosted by IPFW’s Community Arts Academy.

WHERE: Walb Student Union, Rooms 222-224, on the IPFW Campus, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

WHEN: 5:30-6:45 p.m. Tuesdays, Aug. 30 through Sept. 27

COST: $49. Scholarships have been made available by the AWS Foundation.

ETC: To register or for information, call 481-6059.Students must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

 

 
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Gloria Minnich and IPFW'S Community Arts Academy begin another workshop focused on the legendary bard.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 07:57 am
The abundance and variety of characters in the plays of legendary playwright William Shakespeare provide a “helpful tool in navigating our journey in life,” according to teacher and actress Gloria Minnich. “(Shakespeare’s plays) are universal in the fact that they show us what it means to be a human being,” she said.

Minnich’s previous workshop, “Ultimate Shakespear-ience,” for IPFW’s Community Arts Academy, helped students — sixth through 12th grade — interact with the bard’s work via fun exercises or games.

Minnich is taking these kinds of interactions to another level with her new CAA workshop, “Shakespeare’s Island,” 5:30-6:45 p.m. Tuesdays, Aug. 30-Sept. 27 at IPFW. Based on Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest,” the class will work to improve the social and communication skills of a small group of students, ages 10-18, with autism spectrum disorder.

With “Shakespeare’s Island,” Minnich will use the Hunter Heartbeat Method, created by Kelly Hunter, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she said. The HHM uses exaggerated body movements and facial expressions to act out Shakespeare’s work, aiming to “release the communicative blocks within children with autism,” according to Hunter’s official website.

During “Shakespeare’s Island,” Minnich will lead the students, sitting in a circle, through a series of games based on scenes from “The Tempest,” she said.

“The focus is to help these kids by telling (”The Tempest”) in an interactive way, help them identify with their own feelings and with being able to identify those emotions and feelings in other people as well,” Minnich said.

One game centers on the characters Ferdinand and Miranda, who fall in love with each other in “The Tempest.” During the game, students act as if they are wearing glasses by putting their hands over their eyes. Then students take turns making eye contact with each other while one of them recites Ferdinand’s line to Miranda, “O you wonder!” After three rounds of this exercise, the students change the line to “O you wonder, I love you,” Minnich said.

“The point of that game is to try to get two students to make eye contact with each other,” she said, explaining how making eye contact can be difficult for many people with autism. “By exaggerating it, by making it rather cartoonish, it really helps take away the fear of making eye contact with someone.”

The variety of characters in Shakespeare’s work is one of the reason’s his plays fit well with Hunter’s methodologies. Also, the playwright’s repetitive rhythm, called iambic pentameter, gives his work a “repetition that kids with autism have responded to,” Minnich said.

At the start and end of each class, Minnich will lead the class in an exercise called “Heartbeat Hello,” where the entire class taps out the rhythm of a heartbeat in sync with each other. The exercise brings everyone into “a calming state of mind,” according to Minnich.

Since much of the focus of “Shakespeare’s Island” is on body language and exaggerated movements, Minnich is confident even non-verbal students will benefit from it, she said.

“You don’t have to be able to speak in order to identify what someone is feeling. That’s a huge part about (”Shakespeare’s Island),” Minnich said.

Minnich studied the HHM in 2015 at a training session at Ohio State University. The university partnered with the Royal Shakespeare Company a few years ago and partnered with Hunter to conduct a study of her methods, Minnich said.

“(The training session) was literally life-changing. Not only was it fun, but I realized the impact this kind of work can have on both kids with autism and kids without autism,” she said.

The CAA provides opportunities for students in grades pre-K-12 to take courses centered on art, dance, music and theater on the IPFW campus, said Melinda Haines, director of the CAA.

“Shakespeare’s Island” is the first program hosted by CAA specifically for students with a disability, Haines said, adding students with disabilities always have been welcome to participate in the programs.

Scholarships for students who cannot afford “Shakespeare’s Island’s” $49 enrollment fee have been made available by the AWS Foundation, Haines said.

 

 



More Information

Shakespeare at IPFW

WHAT: “Shakespeare’s Island,” a workshop for students ages 10-18 with autism spectrum disorder that is taught by Gloria Minnich and hosted by IPFW’s Community Arts Academy.

WHERE: Walb Student Union, Rooms 222-224, on the IPFW Campus, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

WHEN: 5:30-6:45 p.m. Tuesdays, Aug. 30 through Sept. 27

COST: $49. Scholarships have been made available by the AWS Foundation.

ETC: To register or for information, call 481-6059.Students must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

 

 

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